We sent Ralph Sutcliffe, Snap’s Business Development Manager and MRS member, along to the second day of the recent MRS Conference in London. This is his feedback on the day’s discussions …
A theme discussed at the conference was “Survey research will be dead by 2020″. Based on premises such as “People don’t say what they think” and “Humans are poor reporters of their own behaviour.” Should we adopt passive measurement and accept that research as we know it is coming to an end? Or should “researchers re-invent Market Research and not the geeks”?
There was a lot of talk about the power of social media in research. The following example was given to illustrate the enormous power of Twitter, which along with other social media, web analytics, and location-based data was referred to as ”the river”.
The singer Lily Allen experienced some problems with her BT broadband connection last year and tweeted a complaint. Since Lily has two million followers her tweet caused a large enough ripple to be picked up by BT, large enough for BT chief Ian Livingstone to get on the phone to Lily. The problem was resolved and BT got some positive feedback from Ms Allen.
Mrs Miggins of Purley Way however, is unlikely to tweet about her dripping tap which she reported 2 weeks ago and the Housing Association hasn’t yet repaired. She’s more likely to complain about it, or the hole in the road which “the Council” haven’t fixed yet to Mrs Lovett on-board the number 29 bus going in to town. Even if she did tweet, she wouldn’t create a tidal wave of Allenesque proportions, and unlike BT, her Housing Association or Local Authority would be very unlikely to notice.
Nick Johnson (Volante Research) and Nicola Pecket (Samaritans) presented a very different and interesting paper looking at how they approached and engaged with a particularly difficult to reach group – the 200 people per year who commit suicide on the railways.
The demographic profile of the group is male (75%), white (90%), 30-50 years old, in heavy manual jobs (though only 21% in full-time employment) – which led them to the Pollok estate in Glasgow. Nick described how “poncey researchers from London” overcame the “why the f**k should I talk to you” attitude.
Researchers had been concerned about visiting certain areas and been advised by the police not to. And it was important to get the interviewees away from their pubs/homes enabling them to open up and be honest in individual depth interviews. Community Centres were used as neutral territory. It took an initial 45 minutes to get respondents to relax and gain their trust , before moving on to 15-20 mins discussing the campaign. Very much face to face , one on one.
Research is, always has been and always will be about horses for courses. We have different methodologies available to us and should adopt the most suitable for the particular research which we are undertaking.
Our Glaswegian manual labourer is unlikely to reveal his innermost feelings via Twitter.
We have to recognise our target and use the methodology which works best for them. Market Research has always welcomed the opportunity to embrace new technology as and when it has become available.
When I first came into the industry, the company I joined didn’t own a single computer. The wonders of card readers and mainframes and micro computers revolutionised the way we worked. The interwebby, online and offline, PDAs came along and were taken on board. The “river” is merely the next step in the evolution of how we work in Market Research.
It’s not a question of researchers OR geeks deciding on where Market Research should go. We should work together to define/provide the tools we need to gather information as accurately and efficiently as possible.